Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google

Anindita Mukherjee | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Google employees are criticizing management, most notably CEO Sundar Pichai, for the company’s handling of the announcement this week of its ChatGPT competitor called Bard.

According to posts and memes seen by CNBC, employees took to the popular internal memegen forum to express their thoughts on Bard’s announcement, calling it “rushed,” “unsuccessful” and “un-Google.”

On Monday, Google overtook a Microsoft event the next day and prompted Pichai to publicly reveal some of the details of the company’s chatbot technology. More details about the Bard became known on Wednesday at an event held in Paris.

In between those events, Microsoft, an early investor in ChatGPT creator OpenAI, demonstrated how its Bing search engine will integrate with the speakerphone technology by inviting reporters to a demonstration at the company’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington.

During a Google event on Wednesday, search boss Prabhakar Raghavan briefly shared some slides showing examples of Bard’s capabilities. People who tuned in expected to hear more, and some employees didn’t even know about the event. One host forgot to bring the phone he needed for the demonstration.

Meanwhile, people on Twitter started showing that a Bard ad offered an incorrect description of the telescope used to take the first pictures of a planet outside our solar system.

While Googlers often turn to memegen to poke fun at the company’s quirks and missteps, the posts following Bard’s announcement took a more serious tone and even went directly after Pichai.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman speaks during a keynote address on the integration of ChatGPT for Bing at Microsoft in Redmond, Washington on February 7, 2023.

Jason Redmond | AFP | Getty Images

“Dear Sundar, The Bard launch and layoffs were rushed, botched and short-sighted,” read one meme, which included a serious photo of Pichai. “Please go back to the long term forecast.” The post received many upvotes from employees.

A Google spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Sundar and leadership deserve Perf NI,” declares another highly rated meme, falling into the lowest category in the company’s employee performance appraisal system. “They’re being ridiculously short-sighted and not keeping up with Google in their pursuit of ‘sharpening attention.'”

Last year, Pichai urged employees to be more focused. Management often encourages employees to be “Googlers,” which generally means being ambitious and hardworking, respectful, and a team player.

Alphabet shares fell more than 9% this week amid concerns over ChatGPT’s threat to Google’s core search business and the company’s hasty response to Microsoft’s event.

“Bard’s panicked entry into the market confirmed the market’s fear of us,” read one top-rated meme. In the attached photo, the bird makes a face palm.

Google’s stance on artificial intelligence is a familiar concern. At an all-hands meeting in December, employees were asked about the company’s competitive advantage in artificial intelligence as ChatGPT rose in the public eye. The leaders said in response a company’s reputation could suffer if it moves too quickly on artificial intelligence technology that is far from perfect.

A well-read meme this week featured an image of a dumpster fire with the Google “G” logo on it. The text read, “How things feel from last year.”

Another meme mentioned the layoffs announced last month, which resulted in the loss of 12,000 jobs, or 6% of the company’s workforce. The meme featured a photo of actor Nicolas Cage with a smile and the caption: “Firing 12,000 people boosts stocks by 3%, one rushed AI presentation drops them by 8%.”

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